Sunday was a very hot and humid day north of Chicagoland. I believe the temperatures hit around 94 degrees Fahrenheit. By 8:30 am, when we were ready to leave the house and head to the beach, the inside of the house having already reached 82 degrees with the air conditioning set to 79 degrees.
We decided to take the drive to Lake Michigan and spend the day by the water, since it is always cooler there than inland naturally.
Sunscreen and sand had already ended up on the lens of the camera but the water was very clear, as usual.
My husband took the girls out on our "boat" as yachts and sailboats by the tens of tens went by.
Sand was all over everything.
When we first arrived to the beach, we were all alone but around 11, people began arriving. Most were Polish, but some were Indian and American.
The sounds of the waves rushing onto the shore were peaceful while my toddler napped under the umbrella and my husband and preschooler went via "boat" to get our lunch from the car.
My mind wandered until I was swimming in the Baltic in my memories. My beautiful and funny cousins, brother, and Wujek were all playing in the waves with me. Transparent jellyfish swam all around, docile and sting free.
It was the year of the jellyfish.
My brother grabbed one and threw it against my head, exploding jellyfish everywhere. With anyone else, I would be angry and indignant. But this was my brother. And the jellyfish he grabbed was dying on the shore. Two could play that game.
The salty smells of the Baltic were missing on Sunday. But I could still imagine it as if it was yesterday, instead of over 15 years ago.
As I recalled Sunday, our power went out. A storm was coming.
Fifteen minutes prior, my father had called me, warning that a severe storm was coming my way. It was before 8 am and a black cloud was coming. I figured I had at least a half an hour to get everything done around the house. I sent the older daughter to go change out of pyjamas and changed the baby and myself into clothes. I put the cell phone and car keys in my pocket. I pulled out chicken from the freezer to cook later for dinner, loaded the dishwasher, went to grab the flashlights and planned to load a cooler with ice and some food, turn on the dishwasher, turn off the surge protector strips for the computer and television, and... The power turned off before I could.
A second later, the sirens wailed quietly. Three times and then were silent. The outside was black like night and the wind began. I thought "The sirens should keep wailing, what if I haden't heard it?" After all, I knew it was coming so I had kept an ear out for it, but what if someone else hadn't?
By now, the children knew what to do. We downstairs, closed the bathroom door and cowered with our flashlights. I had not gotten to eat breakfast yet and my hands shook. The weather radio was silent, telling me nothing. I listened instead to a local rock station, the only one to keep talking about updates with the storm and advising everyone to get to a small, windowless room on the bottom floor of a building.
I sent a text message to my husband, who was outside cleaning pools for work and to my father, letting them know where we were and that the sirens had gone off, that we were safe.
Above us, the house was being hit by hail and winds over 65 mph. Rain lashed the house and it sounded like the walls were creaking. After a couple minutes, I left the kids inside the bathroom and glanced out a window that was not in the direction of the wind. A piece of hail smashed against another window and I went back to the children. The toddler was repeatedly saying "Daddy. Outside? Dziadek. Outside?" and I tried to reassure them both that their Tato and Dziadek were at work inside a big strong safe building.
After a time, I went to check on the sump pump since the rain was coming down heavily and we had no power. I filled the large plastic empty kitty litter container 5 times, dumping it down the toilet, before the water was at a safe level.
After an hour, the station said the storm had passed. Thunder still rumbled above us but the rain had stopped.
The children ran around with their flashlights, eating cookies I gave them to hopefully make them think the situation hadn't been dangerous.
Inside, the temperatures rose to 86 degrees within minutes. It was only 9:15 am.
It was going to be a long day.
Before long, they both began to melt down and all I could do was offer them water, keep them downstairs where it was only 79 degrees for the moment, and feed them crackers and other dry foods from the pantry.
I checked the cloth diapers and realized we only had 4 left since I had 3 days worth of dirty diapers to wash. I ended up scrubbing them by hand in the bathtub, thinking all the while that my parents must have truly loved me to wash them everytime by hand like this with my diapers. I longed for modern conveniences. "Please, electricity, come back! Bring me back my dishwasher, my washing machine, air conditioning!"
Hours went by and my husband came home, opening the heavy garage door for me so that we could break free of the sweltering heat and drive to the library, praying it would be open and have air conditioning running. By then, the temperature inside was 91 degrees. Outside, the temperature was 95 degrees with no breeze and no shade. We had lost our shade tree week before.
Thankfully, the library was open. And everyone who was not at the beach was at the library. A couple of hours later, we went home where grilled chicken was being cooked and my father congratulated me on a job well done. "Two kids? In this heat with no electricity? You did good."
After dinner, I bathed the girls in cold water and they turned back from demons bent on destroying the Earth back to being my two giggling princesses. Pyjamas on and the electricity turned back on. A sigh of relief from all our lips and it was time for bed. Until 11 pm, when the toddler had a nightmare about her Daddy being outside and needing to be hugged all night by me.
All in all, we were lucky. Over 600,000 people (I even heard as many as 850,000 people) lost power. I hope you all stay safe and cool in this weather.